"Modestly subtitled ‘A Bunch Of Songs From 1998’, Happy Secret is precisely the witty, wonderful release that fans of this Melbourne three-piece have come to expect. From the smooth skip of Untidy Towns to the lazy lope of Abdication!, each mellow moment, each quirky chorus is clean and catchy.
And unassuming: no more than acoustic guitar, gentle bass and snare drum, occasionally blended with clarinet, whistling or backing vocals. The way the Violent Femmes might have sounded if they’d been melancholy instead of angry. And if they’d been Australian, because these laid-back sounds - especially the laconic lyrics - are distinctly Melburnian. “Nice work, if you can forget it,” sings Tali White on the deliciously-titled Edward, Sandwich Hand. “There must be more to life than cutting corners with a butter knife.” Indeed there is: Happy Secret proves it.
There’s no hype or artifice here, simply a genuine, irrepressible talent, as Europe and the US discovered on The Lucksmith’s outrageously successful world tour of last year. If you thought grunge killed melody, have a listen. Then just try to resist. **** (4 out of 5 stars)" Sacha Molitorisz, Sydney Morning Herald
"I have had a really bad couple of months, and two things have got me through - a beautiful friend, and, more recently, this Lucksmiths album. It's a collection of the 10 songs they recorded during hectic touring in 1998, and it is absolutely perfect.
It is all very simple - acoustic instruments, brushed drums, and little ditties about break-ups and menial jobs. But with clever lyricism, a sense of whimsy, humour and a gift for understatement, the songs shine.
The title track is one of the best tunes I have ever heard, and features couplets like the brilliant 'And I said it like it's unrehearsed/But I said it in the bathroom first', which is indicative of the quality of the rest of the record.
Augmented with little bits of piano, clarinet and accordion, as well as harmonies to die for, this is a small masterpiece. It is sung in a beautiful hushed voice, which in it's unashamed Aussiness reminds me (not surprisingly) of the Simpletons.
Happy Secret almost feels like a throwaway for all the ease with which it is done, but the best pop often does. This is a reminder of how good simple music can be." Paul Harris, Canberra Times
"If I had to distill the week down to a single song, though, three minutes to forever stand for both my hopes and ambivalence about my reunion, and what that says about my relationship to my past, I'm pretty confident that "Untidy Towns", the first track from the Lucksmiths' ten-song Candle Records quasi-album Happy Secret, which collects the band's 1998 output (two three-song singles and four songs from compilations), could serve.
Although the Lucksmiths' overall palette of styles resembles Sleepy Township's and the Cannanes' quite closely, this particular song is more polished than any of three bands' usual wont, Marty Donald's beatific lead vocal, Kimba Parker's breathy harmony and Richard Ogier-Herbert's spare piano combining for an effect like the Beautiful South convinced to forgo trenchant irony for just one song.The lyrics leap from solipsistic melancholy ("But for a while I'm fairly happy feeling hopeless") to earnest romantic yearning ("I know both of us are poor / But baby what are phone bills for?") and terminal awkwardness ("I say it like it's unrehearsed, / But I said it in the bathroom first") to the way our environment takes on our moods ("Past the pub where my parents met / Resigning ourselves to modern architecture"), but always return to "The boy most likely / And the girl most lovely", a pairing that, after a little too much time trying (and failing) to convince myself that "I don't think we ever met, but I called you up once to ask if you'd be in a student film I did, and you turned me down but I ended up casting one of your roommates" wasn't an obtrusively lame excuse for saying hello to Mira Sorvino, seems like a cogent point about how easily our judgments lapse, and we forget the difference between a symbol and its meaning.
The rest of the disc sounds surprisingly coherent, gives its patchwork origin, more like the band made the whole record and then sliced it up than the reverse. "Pin Cushion" has some very nice, soft, Simon and Garfunkel-ish harmonies. "Edward, Sandwich Hand" has the cadences of a calmer version of the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun", and reads like Paul Weller with a slightly more pronounced weakness for wordplay.
"Abdication" reads like Billy Bragg and sounds like Nick Drake. "The Art of Cooking for Two", shuffling and compassionate, crosses the Field Mice with Fairground Attraction. Bassist Mark Monnone's "Don't Come With Me" is light and jazzy, but the strange "A Great Parker", with Kimba Parker singing backup and playing accordion (the song title is ostensibly a small-consolation compliment about a girl's driving skills, but for all I know Kimba is the subject), is slow and a bit uncentered. The handclaps and tambourine twitches of "Southernmost", the second single's title track, seem paralyzed, like the song wants to be giddy power pop but has only enough energy for half the pace it needs, but "Beer Nut" picks up speed, insouciance and a small pub choir, and ends up sounding more like the Wonder Stuff. And "Paper Planes", the closing track, kind of trails off, hardly a rousing conclusion, but rousing conclusions are mirages that lure us away from sustainable states, from ways of living that don't require constant infusions of invented beginnings and ends to simulate a comfortable rhythm." Glenn McDonald, War Against Silence